Columbus Regional: Erkenbeck, New Mexico win
Team winner: 1. New Mexico (18-over 870)
Individual winner: James Erkenbeck, New Mexico (3-under 210)
Also moving on: Teams – T-2. Auburn (872), T-2. South Carolina (872), 4. UNLV (878), 5. Texas Tech (879). Individual – Denny McCarthy, Virginia (1-over 214)
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Rising to the top
New Mexico, the top seed in the Columbus Regional, played like the best team on a day when it mattered the most. New Mexico improved each day – not only in total score but in position on the leaderboard – to win the regional by two shots over Auburn and South Carolina.
Led by senior James Erkenbeck’s 3-under 68, New Mexico won for the fifth time this year. Erkenbeck, who is ranked No. 17 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, was the only player in the 75-player field to finish 54 holes under par. Erkenbeck’s 3-under 210 was better than a trio of players – Auburn’s Dominic Bozzelli, Virginia’s Denny McCarthy and South Carolina’s Matthew NeSmith, all of whom finished at 1-over 214.
“Everything you can hope for, they did it today,” New Mexico head coach Glen Millican said of his players.
The fifth-ranked Lobos' worst individual score in the final round was a 2-over 73 on Ohio State's demanding Scarlet Course. The average score in the final round was 74.81.
“When we have had our great tournaments this year, we have had all five guys in the mix, and we did that today. It’s hard to do that – and especially on that golf course,” Millican said.
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After sharing the 36-hole lead with South Carolina, UNLV put itself in good position to grab a top-5 spot and advance to the national championship, something the Rebels have had problems doing in recent years. UNLV, which had qualified for the finals only once in the past six years, finished fourth to advance.
Freshman A.J. McInerney led the Rebels in the final round with an even-par 71, putting him in a tie for 18th. McInerney shot 76-73 in the first two rounds. Sophomore Carl Jonson also played a big role in helping UNLV get into position. Jonson was the 36-hole leader with rounds of 68-72, though he struggled with a final-round 76 and tied for seventh individually.
“That was a big round for a freshman,” UNLV head coach Dwaine Knight said of McInerney. “He is starting to come into his own, and we feel he is going to be a big player for us down the road. It was a big-time test today. We were not as sharp today, but we had enough good golf that got us through.”
Getting to the championship is always a goal for UNLV, but this year there was a little more incentive because of the Rebels' performance at the Ping/Golfweek Preview, which was played this past fall on the NCAA Championship venue - the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course. UNLV tied for third at the event.
“We particularly wanted to get there this year because we played well at the Preview,” Knight said.
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Second-seeded Stanford, ranked No. 10 by Golfweek, finished seventh, five shots behind fifth-place Texas Tech, and failed to advance . . . U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox carded an even-par 71 in his final round of college golf. Fox tied for 22nd after rounds of 73-77-71.